TNT used to be the place to binge-watch “Law & Order” reruns. But with the success of its own procedural, “The Closer,” the network increased its investment in original programming. The combination of popular reruns and its own series made TNT victorious as a drama destination with mainstream appeal. The network is leaning in a new direction, however, with several intriguing new dramas. They hope these latest crop of series draws in niche crowds looking for edgier fare.

TNT Wants All the Viewers
Kevin Reilly, president of TNT, announced at the May upfronts that the plan was to be more “adventurous” in selecting future programming. We’ve gotten a dose of that already with “Legends,” the Sean Bean-led noir series about a volatile undercover agent who’s lost track of his true identity.

“Viewers should expect some very daring shows, some of which will not appeal to all of our current viewers, but will be a lightning rod to attract new viewers,” Reilly said about the upcoming schedule.

Three Wildly Different Series
A first look at TNT’s new shows definitely illustrates the move towards variety. In late summer, we’ll finally get a look at the Edward Burns passion project, “Public Morals.” Inspired by his own life growing up in New York in the 1960s, the series focuses on a policeman toeing the line between morality and criminality. Timothy Hutton, former star of TNT’s “Leverage,” also appears in the pilot.

TNT once shed its sci-fi fantasy series to focus on more procedural dramas. After the success of the quirky drama “The Librarians,” the network added another, darker series in that genre. “Proof” stars Jennifer Beals (“The L Word”) as a grieving doctor who decides to explore the supernatural side of life and death. We previewed the show on our list of June’s must-see TV.

Sharon Stone stars as the first female vice-president in “Agent X,” a new adventure series scheduled for fall. More than just a figurehead, the VP controls a mysterious and deadly operative that handles problems outside the law. It’s being billed as “‘National Treasure’ meets ‘The Bourne Identity,'” but sounds like a bit of James Bond influence as well. Can Sharon Stone be a better M than Judi Dench? We’ll find out!

Three New Pilots
The unique ideas continue with TNT’s latest pilot orders. I find “The Alienist” to be the most intriguing out of all three. It’s a period piece set in New York City in the late 1800s. The story follows a psychiatrist, a reporter, and then-police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, all working together to track down one of the city’s first serial killers. Based on Caleb Carr’s best-selling novel, the series will be directed by Cary Fukunaga (“True Detective”).

The second one is a series the network outbid pay-cable sites with an offer of $5 million per episode, illustrating how determined TNT is in upping their profile in the drama department. This one is coming from Baz Luhrmann’s longtime writing partner Craig Pearce. He’s put together a “hip, contemporary, and edgy” take on the story of a young William Shakespeare. Expect modern sensibilities and music, with a dash of craziness for this one.

The third pilot is “Animal Kingdom,” based on the 2010 Australian film of the same name. This family crime drama is set in a “gritty surfing community,” rather than the usual New York setting you might expect. The original coming of age story began with a teenage protagonist who watches as his mother dies of a heroin overdose. Coming from John Wells (“Shameless”) and Jonathan Lisco (“Southland”), we expect this will be more violent and twisted than TNT’s usual fare.

Should TNT Go “Edgy”?
Will this new direction increase the network’s popularity? Turner Entertainment is already quite successful on TV. TBS and TNT combined grab about half of the targeted 18-49 demographic each month. Expanding their range of programming, and possibly alienating their current audience, doesn’t guarantee the network will go from successful to full blown empire. This intriguing set of new series holds promise, however.

The quality of the shows will have a big effect on whether or not this draws in new viewers. Darker shows with big ambitions need to be done well, with sharp writing and superior production values. TNT hasn’t always delivered in that area, but the money they’ve spent on “The Alienist” indicates they’re making some solid investments.

What do you think, TV fans? Will you tune in for any of these new shows?

Photo Credit: JAMES DITTIGER/TNT